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Deprescribing in multi-morbid older people with polypharmacy: agreement between STOPPFrail explicit criteria and gold standard deprescribing using 100 standardized clinical cases



Older people with advanced frailty are among the highest consumers of medications. When life expectancy is limited, some of these medications are likely to be inappropriate. The aim of this study was to compare STOPPFrail, a concise, easy-to-use, deprescribing tool based on explicit criteria, with gold standard, systematic geriatrician-led deprescribing.


One hundred standardized clinical cases involving 1024 medications were prepared. Clinical cases were based on anonymized hospitalized patients aged ≥ 65 years, with advanced frailty (Clinical Frailty Scale ≥ 6), receiving ≥ 5 regular medications, who were selected from a recent observational study. Level of agreement between deprescribing methods was measured by Cohen’s kappa coefficient. Sensitivity and positive predictive value of STOPPFrail-guided deprescribing relative to gold standard deprescribing was also measured.


Overall, 524 medications (51.2%) of medications prescribed to this frail, elderly cohort were potentially inappropriate by gold standard criteria. STOPPFrail-guided deprescribing led to the identification of 70.2% of the potentially inappropriate medications. Cohen’s kappa was 0.60 (95% confidence interval 0.55–0.65; p < 0.001) indicating moderate agreement between STOPPFrail-guided and gold standard deprescribing. The positive predictive value of STOPPFrail was 89.3% indicating that the great majority of deprescribing decisions aligned with gold standard care.


STOPPFrail removes an important barrier to deprescribing by explicitly highlighting circumstances where commonly used medications can be safely deprescribed in older people with advanced frailty. Our results suggest that in multi-morbid older patients with advanced frailty, the use of STOPPFrail criteria to address inappropriate polypharmacy may be reasonable alternative to specialist medication review.

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Curtin and O’Mahony are supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant number 634238).

Author information

Curtin, O’Mahony, Gallagher: study concept and design. Curtin, Dukelow, James, O’Donnell: application of deprescribing methods. Curtin, O’Mahony, Gallagher: preparation of manuscript. All authors: critical revision and final approval of manuscript.

Correspondence to Denis Curtin.

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Conflict of interest

O’Mahony and Gallagher were involved in the development of the STOPPFrail criteria.


The European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme had no role in the design, conduct, or reporting of this study.

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Curtin, D., Dukelow, T., James, K. et al. Deprescribing in multi-morbid older people with polypharmacy: agreement between STOPPFrail explicit criteria and gold standard deprescribing using 100 standardized clinical cases. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 75, 427–432 (2019).

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  • STOPPFrail
  • Deprescribing
  • Frailty
  • Polypharmacy
  • Multi-morbidity